Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Chronic Review: Green Lantern # 1!

Green Lantern # 1
DC Comics
Script:      Geoff Johns
Pencils:     Doug Mahnke
22 pages for $2.99

Where to start with these?  I've got a lot of muddled thoughts about the New 52 books, almost all of them are positive, which causes me some consternation.  Partly because I'm never comfortable being comfortable, and partly because it sometimes feels to me that I'm letting some things slide for DC that I'm not for Marvel.  Perhaps it's best to just talk about the book at hand and then bring in the background noise as it seems warranted.

Truth is I loved Green Lantern #1, warts and all.  I brought some baggage with me as a previous reader of the Old Green Lantern book, and some of it got in the way, but none of it was deal-breaking for me.  Here's an example of what I'm talking about.

Carol Ferris Has Done An Abrupt About Face
During Blackest Night and the Green Lantern War that followed, I was really impressed with the way Johns was portraying Carol.  Yes, she was in that ridiculously revealing Sapphire suit, but inside...she was evolving into quite the badass.  When Hal would make whiny little overtures at her, she would tell him to take a cold shower.  While everyone else was riddled with doubt and whinging about what to do about all these damn Black Lanterns and power battery entities, Carol Ferris took charge, took command of her corps, and generally positioned herself as the character most worthy of respect in the title.  That was then.

This is now, and this is Carol Ferris claiming she hasn't slipped the ring on her finger since returning to earth, and doesn't plan to.  And this is Carol Ferris getting over-emotional on dinner dates because Hal asked her for a co-sign on a car loan instead of her hand in marriage.  That's not just different...that's a character arc diametrically opposed to her path just 30 days ago.  It's probably a less interesting path, too.  I liked Bad Ass Carol.  A lot.

So what to do about it?  I guess the question is: what is the social contract we signed off on?  What did DC promise us, and have they fulfilled said promises?  My understanding is that DCs offer was a new beginning with a limited offer on prior continuity.  The base contract was:  overhaul.  We're starting a new ground floor, and letting everybody in.  As a bone to the rather tweaky and inbred established audiences, they promised that certain old elements would remain in canon.  In particular, Green Lantern was cited as a book that would maintain much of its continuity, including Blackest Night and such.

So if an established reader wants to feel betrayed by this overtly contradictory character portrayal, I honestly couldn't fight them on it.  If it feels to you like the contract has been broken, you have a legitimate case.  I like to read reviews over at the Savage Critics, and for most of the new DC books you can just feel the pain of Brian Hibbs peeling off the screen.  "Waitaminute - you said you were keeping these stories intact!  How the hell does this work?"

So I understand the sentiment, even if I don't share it.  And I don't share it.  I rationalize it like so - to me, the main thrust of the new contract between DC and its readership was a fresh start.  They spun a story of kept continuity so as not set an already irascible pack of miscreants over the top with rage.  I'm sure some elements of the old continuity are still in place, but frankly, I don't give a damn if they are or not.

The Difference Between Marvel and DC
Here's the critical difference between my perception of DCs continuity "gaffes" and Marvel's:  intent.  I think Geoff Johns pulled a switcheroo on Carol Ferris because this was the place to make a fresh break, it was a place intended to serve as an introduction to new readers, and I believe those changes were made to make a more compelling/traditional romance between Hal and Carol.  Now,  I may not be in love with that change, but maybe Johns is correct.  Maybe it's more interesting for that new audience to see a Carol Ferris that still isn't a complete pushover, but it is obviously pining for the guy.  It's more of a Moonlighting vibe than what we were getting before, which was a Carol Ferris who really didn't appear interested.

When I see DC making changes now, I interpret them as making a clean break in an attempt to reach new people, and I am all in on that.  When I see Marvel send Wolverine to hell and none of the 13 other books he appears in each month seem to acknowledge that, I see it as a group of editorially lazy fucks who know they can get away with it.  Perhaps I'm naive about all of this, but that's my perception.  Rationally, I recognize that much of DCs promises regarding kept continuity were empty, counter-productive spin.  But emotionally, I don't feel betrayed because idea was, duh, this is a New 52, and sometimes Carol Ferris is going to act in a blatantly contradictory manner so we can play a more traditional "will they/won't they" romance game.  Here's what I'm looking for out of the New 52 books - are they interesting?

And Green Lantern surely is.  Hal's been de-ringed by the Guardians for conduct unbecoming, (never mind that his conduct saved everyone's asses) and he's doing even worse back home.  Ferris can't insure him so he's out of a job, the bills are piling up, and it's not easy to gear down to Coast City cruising speeds when you've been in space protecting sector 2814.

Hal simply doesn't fit in anywhere any more, as evidenced by Hal's very heroic dive from a 7th story window to save a damsel in distress.  The damsel being a paid actress, of course.  Hal didn't save anybody, he just cost a film crew their take.  I think it's appropriate to look at a scene like that and say "Aw, C'MON, MAN!"  There is suspension of disbelief, and then there's this.  But you know what?  It's incredibly unlikely, but it was also fun.  The point was to demonstrate how Hal's Space Cop instincts just don't serve him well as a regular Joe.  Mission accomplished.

While Hal Jordan is getting drummed out of the corps, Sinestro is being shoe-horned back in.  He's essentially forced to recite the oath on a plank, and sent back to his home sector to regulate.  What he finds is that his Yellow Lantern cronies have been subjugating his people, not providing order.  This will simply not do.

So what we're left with is a new playing field where Hal is in pariah mode, and Sinestro is in similar straights, and the only people who can really relate is each other.  And Sinestro's got a plan (of course he does) to put both of them back on top, if Hal will play ball.  He almost certainly will, and because of that, I'm instantly excited about not just Green Lantern # 2, but probably the next six months.  This is fun.  This is what comics are supposed to be.

Notice that the juice doesn't lie in a banner across the top of the book, or a character death, or a ridiculous resurrection, or tying into other titles, or some manufactured eventy type villain.  The juice, as always, lies inside the natural repercussions of story action.  When you've got two enemies disgraced and marginalized by the same group of bureaucratic ass hats, sometimes they put aside their differences to fuck shit up together.  Now that's a story. 

- Ryan

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